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We're making progress in the opioid crisis, but there's more to do

October 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the SUPPORT Act, the largest Congressional effort to confront a single drug crisis in history

Published by: The Herald Palladium 
By: Fred Upton

No community is immune and all too many of us have experienced the devastation and loss firsthand caused by the opioid epidemic. Make no mistake. The opioid crisis cuts through all demographics, races and socioeconomic statuses.

Many of us know somebody who’s died. My family too.

It’s hard to talk about, but it’s important we do. This is a national issue that will have a lasting impact on so many of us for generations to come.

Just look at the numbers.

More than 130 lives are lost to opioid addiction every day, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. From 2000 to 2016, 600,000 people died from drug overdoses.

Economically, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that opioid misuse in the United States cost us over $78 billion each year.

Michigan has been hit particularly hard. In fact, in 2017, Michigan suffered from 2,033 overdose deaths. That comes out to a rate of 21.2 deaths per 100,000 persons. That’s significantly higher than the national rate of 14.6 deaths per 100,000 persons.

Last year, Congress took a monumental step to combat this crisis. Thanks to a bipartisan effort, we passed and President Trump signed the Substance Use-Disorder that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, which represents the most significant Congressional effort to confront a single drug crisis in American history.

October 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the SUPPORT Act becoming law, and we are already seeing the results. Here are a few key examples.

The Drug Enforcement Administration announced a new tool – the Automated Reports and Consolidated Orders System (ARCOS) - required by the SUPPORT Act that will help more than 1,500 drug manufacturers and distributors across the nation crack down on suspicious opioid orders.

The Food and Drug Administration also has a greater role thanks to the SUPPORT Act. For drugs that have a greater risk of abuse, they will now be placed in special packaging, which will reduce the number of opioid pills left unused from a prescribed patient. The FDA also has stronger authority to intercept illicit opioids at international mail facilities.

In addition, Health and Human Services is now required to better coordinate with other federal government agencies so we can more effectively treat and prevent substance use disorder.

These are positive steps and we have received promising news. For the first time in nearly three decades, there was a decline in drug overdose deaths. But let’s be clear – there is much more that must be done at the federal, state, and local level to effectively end this crisis.

Developing new, non-addictive pain medications is essential to combating the opioid epidemic. We must also continue our oversight efforts to make sure laws such as the SUPPORT Act and my 21st Century Cures Act - which provided an additional $1 billion to states to address opioid addiction treatment and prevention – are being implemented the way they were intended.

Moving forward, we must also continue to educate people and our communities on the harsh realities and consequences of opioid abuse.

I would also note that October 26 is the DEA’s National Drug Take Back Day, which provides a safe and responsible means of disposing your prescription drugs. There are several collection sites here in southwest Michigan. You can find your nearest location at www.dea.gov.

Over the past few years, a number of you have shared heart-breaking stories with me that too often had a tragic ending. My hope is that - together – we will move forward remembering these stories to continue working on bold, innovative ideas – like the SUPPORT Act - to end the opioid crisis once and for all.

Fred Upton is proud to be the U.S. Congressman for Michigan’s 6th Congressional District, which includes all of Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren counties, and most of Allegan County.

Full op-ed here.

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